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First Generation College Students

As a first generation college student, you have the opportunity to be the first in your family to study abroad at the college level.  Although first-generation students can benefit greatly from a study abroad experience, they have some of the lowest participation rates among U.S. college students. Deciding on whether to go abroad and if so, where, can be challenging, particularly for first-generation college students.  As a part of choosing your program and deciding where to go, please consider the items and resources below.


Things to consider

  • Research the benefits of studying abroad.  Studies show that students gain confidence while studying abroad, they learn cross-cultural communication skills and increase their culture understanding and they have higher grade point averages and degree completion rates compared to their peers.  First generation college students often see obtaining a college education in vocational terms so it will also be important to understand how these benefits can translate into professional competencies that will give you an edge on the job market at the end of the college experience.
  • Research the challenges of studying abroad and reflect on how you can overcome them. Paperwork and finances are two areas that first generation students find particularly challenging.
  • First generation students often find the paperwork in the application and pre-departure phases to be daunting so working closely with your study abroad advisor will be important.  They can help you determine if you are on track in completing the paperwork.
  • Understand how you will finance your study abroad summer, semester or year.  Most programs have an equivalent cost to a semester at AU and some may even cost less.    You can utilize your scholarships, grants and loans for your AU Abroad program.  Be sure to research the cost of the program on the AU Abroad program website, read about financing study abroad on the main page of the AU website and consider applying for scholarships. Be sure to understand what upfront costs might exist for the program you are interested in. If you have concerns about the cost of studying abroad, please be sure to discuss this with an AU Abroad advisor. 
  • Think through your own special circumstances that may prevent you from studying abroad and consider how you may still be able to do so.   For instance, you may not be able to study abroad for a year or a semester because you might need to be at home to take care of parents or work during the summer but you may be able to participate on a short-term program. 
  • Work with your academic advisor to understand how studying abroad will impact completing your degree on-time.  Discuss your plans with your academic advisor early and often.
  • Reflect on how your family will react and how to discuss it with them. Discuss your plans early on with your family and let them know that they can speak with study abroad advisors if they have any questions.  You can also direct them to the “Information for Parents” section on the AU Abroad website.  
Resources
  • The AU Abroad Office can advise you on your study abroad options and help you find the right program for your major and personal goals.  The AU Abroad office is located in the Rockwood building (to the left of Public Safety by the south side shuttle stop). Tel: 202-885-1320 or auabroad@american.edu
  • The Center for Diversity and Inclusion at AU can help you get ready to study abroad. Please visit their office to ask questions and to seek advice about living abroad. Their office is located in the Mary Graydon Center Room 201. Tel: 1-202-885-3651 or cdi@american.edu 
  • The Career Center at AU can help you determine how to articulate the skills the you’ve obtained abroad.  
  • Diversity Abroad is an organization dedicated to increasing participation and better serving the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in international education. They have a diversity and inclusion abroad guide on their website. 
  • FirstGenerationStudent.com is a website dedicated to helping first generation students navigate the university environment.  It includes some resources on study abroad. 
  • The Northwestern University Study Abroad office has a useful guide with questions to ask and items to research about studying abroad as a first generation college student.   The content is geared toward Northwestern students but may help you think about what you need to do before studying abroad. 
  • The UCSC Program Abroad office has a useful guide for speaking to your parents about studying abroad.  It is geared toward students at USCU but you may find it helpful.